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The Literary Life of Cairo

The Literary Life of Cairo: One Hundred Years in the Heart of the City

Edited and Introduced by Samia Mehrez
Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 400
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt15m7kcn
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  • Book Info
    The Literary Life of Cairo
    Book Description:

    Unlike The Literary Atlas of Cairo, which focuses on the literary geopolitics of the cityscape, this companion volume immerses the reader in the complex network of socioeconomic and cultural lives in the city. The seven chapters first introduce the reader to representations of some of Cairo’s prominent profiles, both political and cultural, and their impact on the city’s literary geography, before presenting a spectrum of readings of the city by its multiethnic, multinational, and multilingual writers across class, gender, and generation. Daunting images of colonial school experiences and startling contrasts of postcolonial educational realities are revealed, while Cairo’s moments of political participation and oppression are illustrated, as well as the space accorded to women within the city across history and class. Together, The Literary Atlas of Cairo and The Literary Life of Cairo produce a literary geography of Cairo that goes beyond the representation of space in literature to reconstruct the complex network of human relationships in that space.

    eISBN: 978-1-61797-170-9
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-xii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  4. Introduction: Cairo, Mother of Cities, Again and Again
    (pp. 1-16)

    The Literary Life of Cairowas not initially intended to be a separate volume. It was supposed to be part ofThe Literary Atlas of Cairo. But, once I had compiled the complete manuscript, even after I had already excluded a considerable amount of material I had selected for the project, it became clear that it would be impossible to publish in a single volume. The publishers immediately told me that I would either have to cut the material in half, or that we would have to publish it in two volumes. Although the two-volume solution didn’t initially appeal to...

  5. Icons of the City
    (pp. 17-56)

    Every city has icons that constitute part of its memory and its history; they may be exceptional architectural or physical structures of the built environment or they may be people who are readily recognized as having some outstanding role or significance in the political or cultural life of the city. This section focuses on the latter kind of iconography by bringing together literary representations of some of Cairo’s, if not the entire country’s, most important national and cultural icons: individuals whose impact and imprint have clearly marked the collective literary imaginary during and beyond the twentieth century.

    National figures have...

  6. Cairo Cosmopolitan
    (pp. 57-114)

    Cairo’s cosmopolitan legacy has forever been overshadowed by Alexandria and its constructed, and of late contested, cosmopolitan history. However, the fact remains that Cairo, like Alexandria, has attracted multiple ethno-religious communities and can boast an exceptionally rich literary output in several languages by members of those communities who have historicized the tangled textures of multi-cultural lives and experiences in this city. Indeed, whether we choose to focus on the city’s colonial past or its postcolonial present, Cairo, as the throbbing, ever-expanding mega city, has always been a magnet for communities from different ethnic and religious backgrounds, including Greeks, Italians, and...

  7. Going to School in Cairo
    (pp. 115-162)

    The representations of schools, learning, and education in general are of particular importance to bothThe Literary Atlas of CairoandThe Literary Life of Cairoas a whole, since they all provide us with fascinating insight into the very making of the intellectual and literary elite that is the producer and shaper of the two volumes themselves. The educational system we encounter in these excerpts is the natural product and outcome of at least one hundred years of Egyptian modern history that are themselves shaped by Egypt’s colonial history and the impact of cultural imperialism on the Egyptian and...

  8. The Street Is Ours?
    (pp. 163-246)

    This section brings together a rich selection of representations of Cairenes’ moments of uprising, demonstrations, resistance, and protest on the streets of the city. These are juxtaposed against equally detailed representations of consecutive regimes’ repression of and violence against Cairenes’ lives and freedoms for over more than a century. The tension between public protest and state brutality throughout the twentieth century and beyond is perhaps the explanation for the rhetorical question that makes up the title of this section.

    The material in this section posed one of the greatest challenges in theLiterary Lifebecause of the staggering overabundance of...

  9. Women in the City
    (pp. 247-312)

    This section brings together literary representations of women in the city from different class and social backgrounds whose multiple roles are defined and shaped by the space they occupy or strive to inhabit in the city. The numerous roles that women play, as mothers, lovers, artists, house cleaners, prostitutes, students, and professionals are not uniform or identical in their constraints or limitations but rather, are conditioned to a great extent by the social space and context, that is, class affiliation, family background, and urban experience in general, of the women themselves. As one reads these representations, one cannot help but...

  10. Cairo’s Underworld
    (pp. 313-362)

    The rapid and haphazard growth of the city of Cairo has resulted in new patterns of geographic, economic, and social mobility. During the second half of the twentieth century, Greater Cairo was the site of successive waves of rural migration due to the centralization of institutions and employment opportunities in the capital. Uprooted and disadvantaged, these rural immigrants began to form new communities in a number of informal settlements on the margins of Cairo that have slowly transformed the face of the city altogether. The fragmentation of familiar spaces and the encroachment of unfamiliar ones led to new urban affiliations...

  11. Cairo’s Drug Culture
    (pp. 363-412)

    The material in this section only partially represents the very rich and quite startling literary renditions of the place of drugs in Cairenes’ lives. Egyptians have always consumed drugs, and official estimates tell us that at least ten percent of Egypt’s population today engages in various kinds of drug consumption (hashish, heroin, cocaine, cannabis, prescription drugs, glue, and so on). Unlike alcohol, drugs are not prohibited by Islam and have been traditionally available, affordable, and associated with various kinds of medicinal remedies, religious and social ceremonies, as well as creative and visionary energies and production. This is not to say...

  12. Epilogue
    (pp. 413-414)

    Cairo, the city of seduction that hides its forgiving face in the corners of alleyways, under the bridges, and on top of a pile of sand and cement hurled in front of a building.

    Cairo does not like those who take its power and might lightly; Cairo frankly does not like the headstrong. Cairo likes those who are complicit with her. Only then will she conspire with them. And to be complicit with Cairo requires an entire lifetime.

    More than once I deserted my home city where I experienced the long and short ends of freedom. More than once I...

  13. About the Authors
    (pp. 415-426)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 427-430)
  15. Glossary
    (pp. 431-432)
  16. Index of Authors
    (pp. 433-433)